Legal education is a hot-button topic these days. Elie Mystal and I have taken our debate on the future of legal education to UNLV and Cardozo Law, in appearances co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society, and our roadshow hit Georgetown Law earlier today. (If you’d like to invite us to your school, most likely for the fall semester at this point, drop us a line.)
Despite disagreements over proposed solutions, folks generally agree on what needs to be improved. In an ideal world, law school would be less expensive, and legal jobs would be more plentiful. In an ideal world, more than 55 percent of recent law school graduates would wind up with full-time, long-term legal jobs.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in the real world, which is imperfect and messy and depressing. Law schools and their graduates have to make the best of a challenging situation.
Which takes me to the practice of law schools employing their own graduates. In an ideal world, law schools wouldn’t have to resort to this. But in the real world, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, at least when it’s done right.
So pop your collars in celebration. UVA, I’m looking at you….
It’s hard out here for authors of judicial memoirs who are not named Sonia Sotomayor. Just ask Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.), a federal trial judge in Brooklyn since 1994 and the author of an appealing new book, Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge (affiliate link). In Disrobed, Judge Block describes his surprising rise from small-town Long Island lawyer to Article III aristocracy, where he has presided over cases involving the Crown Heights riots, Kitty Genovese, mob boss Peter Gotti, and other headline-making subjects.
The book has received several favorable notices. Writing in the New York Times, Sam Roberts described Disrobed as an “engaging” book that provides “a rare look behind decision-making on the federal bench.” Over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield called the memoir a “well-written,” “easy and quick read,” by a “quite well-regarded” judge. I’ve read the book myself, and I concur with Roberts and Greenfield.
But even though the book has sold well, exceeding the expectations of its publisher, Thomson Reuters, Disrobed hasn’t attained the bestselling status of Justice Sotomayor’s My Beloved World (affiliate link). And this makes Judge Block a little sad, as he confessed to me when I recently visited him in chambers.
Especially because Judge Block came painfully close to what would have been a big, big break….
There’s lots of misery in our profession. Much of it occurs because lawyers didn’t realize that the practice is not like some television show glamorizing our daily lives. We are also a miserable bunch because many of us do the same thing every day, we hate what we do every day, and we deem it useless. Even if you’re one of those rare lawyers who loves what they do, you stand the risk of being around the miserable ones.
I love what I do. I don’t love it every day, and like everyone else on the planet, occasionally think about doing something else. There are days when, like everyone else, I have to deliver bad news to a client, or wonder if every conversation I am having is a conspiracy to cause me to jump out a window.
So because I love what I do and love you all so very much, I thought I’d give you some thoughts about how to actually enjoy lawyering….
New York City is the logical starting point for this occasional series highlighting law schools in specific locales. New Yorkers’ self-regard is bloated enough to believe they are at the Center of the Universe and that everything that happens there is naturally interesting to everyone, everywhere. The ATL Insider Survey asks, among other things, current law students to rate how their schools are doing in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.
Ah, UVA Law School. I’ll be the first to admit that we’re often a little harsh on this particular law school, but that’s only because it’s so damn easy to do. When we write about UVA Law, the jokes virtually write themselves.
But let me tell you, it’s a rare day when we’re able to tell students from this school to pop their collars with pride, and we actually mean it without a hint of sarcasm. Today we’re going to congratulate a student from UVA for an accomplishment that everyone with student loan debt wishes they could achieve.
This young woman appeared on live television and was handed thousands of dollars to pay off her loans, just for being a decent human being. How much was she able to walk away with?
In her bestselling memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link), Justice Sonia Sotomayor recounts her journey from the projects of the South Bronx to the bench of the United States Supreme Court. Given that background, one would expect Justice Sotomayor to have a weak spot for young women who make it to One First Street from improbable places.
So it makes perfect sense that Justice Sotomayor has hired the first-ever Brooklyn Law School graduate to serve as a Supreme Court law clerk: Sparkle Sooknanan, a 2010 graduate of BLS who is currently an appellate attorney at the Justice Department. We’ve heard Sooknanan described as “an awesome human being” and “brilliant” — and with a name like “Sparkle,” the brilliance must be literal.
Sparkle isn’t the only bright young lawyer to claim a shiny new credential for the résumé. Read on for additional news of Supreme Court clerk hiring….
The legal economy right now is not unlike the economy writ large. People with small or non-existent paychecks are suffering, but those at the top are actually doing just fine for themselves.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it might just be reality. As David Brooks put it in a recent New York Times column, “[t]he meritocracy is overwhelming the liberal project.” He argues that in our current, rapidly changing economy, people who are smart, well-educated, and hardworking just end up doing better and better for themselves — and there are practical limits on how much redistributive policies can “fix” this situation.
Sorry for that digression — back to Biglaw. Let’s take a look at how the rich are getting richer….
When it comes to the employee benefit known as “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits” (aka the “gay gross-up”), maybe the pertinent question should be which firms don’t offer it. Since our recent write-up, we’ve heard about more leading law firms that offer this perk, taking the total number of firms that have it to more than 40. (The new firms are mentioned below.)
So let’s move on to the next front, which we also alluded to in our prior post: adoption and surrogacy-related benefits. They’re not nearly as common as tax equalization for same-sex health benefits, but a handful of firms appear to offer them.
Let’s find out which ones, shall we?
UPDATE (2/8/2013, 1:00 AM): A noteworthy update about the legal status of surrogacy, after the jump.
It’s hard to get a good read on the direction of the economy these days. And the same could be said about the direction of Biglaw.
It seems that every week brings a new survey, report, or set of predictions. And they often point in different directions. Sometimes they are pessimistic, claiming that layoffs (including partner layoffs) are just around the corner. Sometimes they are positive, noting that despite the challenging economy, legal spending is up. And sometimes they fall somewhere in between.
Today brings news about past performance — which, while not a guarantee of future performance, can sometimes offer hints. It’s about how large law firms fared in the year just ended. And it’s good news….
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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